I do a lot of talks to clinicians. Every couple of talks I get "How did you get into clinical research? And, how do I get into it?"
Kessler, West Orange, NJ, where I worked early in my career.
Here are some suggestions:
- Educate yourself. There are all kinds of opportunities for folks with bachelors or associates degrees. Heck, there's probably jobs in clinical research that you don't need any degree. But if you do want to go the advanced degree route (I didn't): Typically, a PhD is more important in research, while the DPT is important in teaching. There is a doctorate of OT, but again, the PhD is helpful in research.
- Cast a wide net. Find folks doing research in your geographic area and volunteer or ask for a job. Where can you find such a list? Go here and find the list under "Find Stroke-Recovery Research in Your Area." Look for email address/ contact info and make contact.
- Be willing to take a pay cut. I took a 1/3 pay cut to get into research. It was a temporary pay cut, but I didn't know that at the time. You'll tend to get paid on the back end. In a variety of ways.
- Hitch your wagon to dynamic (and smart) folks. Once you're in, that's not the end. Find the folks who are actually getting funding and align yourself with them. Also, look for people who are publishing a lot. One of the guys I aligned myself with early was publishing about 5 to 1 compared to others in our research facility. Of course, you can start on your own grant-getting journey, but even then you need a mentor to begin with. Also, don’t judge expertise on degree, base it on conversations. There are a lot of PhDs in research who are not dynamic, get little funding, have little vision, etc. Find the good people.
- Don’t listen to the road more traveled crowd. My friends in my class in college suggested I not go into research. "How long will it last?" they asked skeptically. 20 years, so far.
- Learn stuff that no one else is willing to learn. Once you learn that machine or program or outcome measure, they'll need you because for every grant that is funded that involves that thing because, well, you are qualified and often the only option. Boom, job security.